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Get Thai'd: One night at Bangkok

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Summer Wildcat
Authentic Thai Cuisine restaurant Bangkok Cafe opened 2 months ago on the northwest corner of East Speedway Boulevard and North Tucson Boulevard. Owner Adej Chotichuti empathizes, "I eat healthy; I want to help all my customers eat healthy."
By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, August 9, 2004
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Delicious fare and fantastic decor make Bangkok a must-eat cafe

The citizens of Tucson can scream out in triumph now that there is finally a decent Thai restaurant in town. It's called the Bangkok Cafe and the place already has regular customers singing praises about its exquisite food, even though it just opened 2 months ago.

For those of you who've tried some of the Thai restaurants in town, and have never tried Thai food again because of them, put your fears aside. The Bangkok Cafe offers "authentic Thai cuisine" that blows the generic Americanized Thai food out of the water.

Most dishes are prepared with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or tofu. But there are also specialty dishes that include duck, trout, roast pork tenderloin or other meats.

There is also good news for you veggies, because just about every dish on the menu can be prepared vegetarian upon request.

The most impressive aspect of the restaurant is the fact that the owner, Adej Chotichuti, created the recipes for every dish on the menu, including the ice cream.

Plus, Adej came up with so many recipes that he couldn't fit them all on the menu. So, don't hesitate to ask for something that may not be on it. "The heart of the business is the food," Adej said. "I spent a lot of money and time to have the best food."

However, Adej's main concern is that his customers enjoy their experience and meals at the Bangkok Cafe.

"I eat healthy," he said. "I want to help all my customers eat healthy."

My all-time favorite dish is Pad Thai, made of rice noodles, a sweet tamarind sauce, bamboo shoots, vegetables and, my favorite part, chopped peanuts.

If you go...

Bangkok Cafe
2511 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85716

Monday-Thursday: 11-3, 5-9:30
Friday: 11-3,5-10
Saturday: 12-3, 5-10

Having tasted practically every Pad Thai recipe in Los Angeles, I honestly considered myself a Pad Thai connoisseur. That was until I tried Adej's Pad Thai and realized that my taste buds had been deceived in LA!

I knew I had become addicted when I returned to the Bangkok Cafe the next day to sit in. I ordered the very first appetizer on the menu, Thoong Tong, which are little pastry bags filled with vegetables and served with a sweet chili plum sauce. The combination of flavors was so good I almost cried.

Because all of the salads, soups and entrees sounded great, I couldn't decide on anything, so I had my waitress choose for me. She choose her favorite dish, Kang Pa-Nang, a Panang curry dish made with deep red chili, coconut milk, kaffir leaf (which comes from a lime tree) and sweet basil. As a devout vegetarian, I ordered it with tofu and vegetables, but forgot to pay attention to the little red pepper symbol on the menu.

For the sake of your own taste buds, PAY ATTENTION TO THE LITTLE RED PEPPER!

Honestly, the heat didn't stop me from enjoying the great flavor of the dish - I just had to order a lot of water.

Even if you do order a spicy dish, Adej assured me that customers can choose the level of spiciness.

With great food and accommodating service, what more could a customer want? And if you don't take my word for it, just listen to some of Adej's other customers.

New Yorker and Reggae artist James Rouse has already tried practically half the dishes at the Bangkok Cafe and can't seem to get enough.

"This food is very good," he said. "It's very consistent. That's the key: consistency. And the people are very nice."

As a food critic in his own right, James also said he waited weeks for the Bangkok Cafe to open and was there opening day.

When I met James, he had ordered two dishes: Kang Ped, which is a spicy red curry with coconut milk, chicken, bamboo shoots and vegetables; and Pad See Eew, which is flat rice noodles with shrimp, broccoli and eggs in a sweet soy sauce.

Even though he orders something different every visit, James said he always orders the mango juice.

Other juices are available, but I personally believe that Thai food is best enjoyed with Thai tea, specifically sweetened Thai iced tea with milk. It hits the spot. There is also a full bar, but I guarantee you'll be more distracted by the food. At the suggestion of his niece, Kora, Adej decided to open a Thai restaurant when he realized that it was probably the only way Tucsonans would ever get a good dose of great Thai food.

"It was her idea, but my hard work," Adej said.

As an intercontinental chef, Adej said he enjoys cooking Thai the most. Adej has been cooking since age 12 thanks to the tutelage of his mother, and has also taught cooking in the United States for over 40 years.

As a professional chef, he is no stranger to the kitchen, having started Roper's Delicatessen when he moved to Tucson in 1977. From 1979 to 1985, Adej also worked at the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, where he introduced Thai and Oriental food to the special buffet. "I feel that cooking is an art," Adej said.

He would know, because he also owns the Wicker Rattan Design Center on Grant, which he opened in 1985.

Clearly, Adej's artistry goes beyond the kitchen because he designed every piece of furniture in the restaurant, from the light fixtures on the ceiling to the rattan chairs.

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